Plague - Experience

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What is plague?

Plague is generally defined as epidemic disease or affliction that causes high mortality or widespread calamity or misery (for example, the biblical plagues of Egypt cited in the Bible). However, the first definition, in most medical dictionaries, define plague as a disease caused by bacteria. This article will only discuss plague as caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis.

Plague, a disease that is endemic in some animal populations (mainly rodents), is caused by the Yersinia pestis bacterium. This bacterium can be transmitted to humans, usually by a vector such as fleas. Plague usually starts with a flea bite where Y. pestis is transmitted from the flea bite site to lymph nodes that swell (buboes). This type of plague is termed bubonic plague. The bacteria can spread into the bloodstream and eventually infect other organs. In some patients, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream without lymph node swelling (termed septicemic plague); in others, the patients can inhale or swallow droplets that contain Y. pestis that infect the lungs (termed pneumonic plague). Death occurs in about 50%-90% of all people who develop infection with Y. pestis and are not treated; even with treatment, about 15% of infected people will still die. Epidemics of this devastating disease have occurred many times in the past. Skin areas and buboes in untreated people may become dark or a black color as the disease progresses, so plague was originally termed "Black Death." In addition, it has been associated with the term pestilence that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines as "a contagious or infectious epidemic disease that is virulent and devastating; especially: bubonic plague."

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